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tv   This Week in Defense  CBS  March 18, 2012 11:00am-11:30am EDT

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next on "this week in defense news," we go aboard the world's first and oldest nuclear-powered carrier on her
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final deployment and interview welcome to "this week in defense news," i'm vago muradian from uss enterprise as she begins hen 22nd and final deployment. she's the world's first and oldest nuclear aircraft carrier, turning 50 late last year, powered by a whopping 8 reactors, she's the navy's fastest carrier, home to 4,600 sailors and marines and 61 aircraft. displacing 90,000 tons and 1,123 feet long, she was to have been one of six enterprise class carriers, but the rest were canceled because of high costs. yet she demonstrated the value of unlimited endurance, blazing the trail for the nimitz class that's now the navy's standard
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carrier design. this is the first, the first was a captured british loop that entered service in august of 1775, three months before the navy was born. the most famous enterprise was nicknamed big e that was the most decorated warship of world war ii. we joined enterprise at norfolk naval base as she and her strike group got under way from the araban sea. >> thanks for coming out here this morning. >> we met with admirable ted carter, the commander of the enterprise carrier strike group and asked him where his forces were going and what they were going to do. >> it's a great question about the carrier strike group operations because a lot of folks do see only the centerpiece of the carrier strike group which is the aircraft carrier and the air wing. but as you point out, we do, we have a guided missile cruiser with us, the uss vicesburg, three guided missile destroyers, the ninza, james e. porter as well as a combat port ship which is named supply. so we operate as a six-ship carrier strike group -- gotta love the sound of freedom here,
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six feet prowlers going around. but the operations run the full gamut, so we may be out there doing a presence operation with a full carrier strike group or we may disaggregate so we can do, again, a more broader spectrum of operations, for example, i may have some ships out there doing anti-piracy missions while the carrier and the air wing and my cruiser will go support operations for operation enduring freedom. so it really depends on the demand signal. as a strike group commander, i would prefer normally to keep the strike group aggregated, in other words closer together, but, again, with 285 ships in the navy and the amount of water space that we have to cover, oftentimes we will send our ships on a long tether away from the carrier strike group. i will still have command and control of them for their mission, operating through fleets, ctf-50 will be the senior strike group commander reports to the fifth fleet, but
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that's just the nature of the business right now. >> let me ask you about the number of carriers that are on station. the central command has a requirement to have two carriers on station. the navy has been working that hard, but it's been a bit of a struggle. 1.7 is more sort of the presence that you can find and the fleet forces commander, admirable harvey has suggested that the navy at some point may have to say no, that this kind of sustained pace is very, very hard to do or deployments are going to get longer. how's that going to break in your estimation? >> well, you know, obviously we have a finite number of resources in terms of aircraft carriers, usually 11, one is usually in a major overhaul, 10 carrier air wings. those are the hard numbers where we are right now. it really comes down to a question of two things, demand signals, where the carrier is most needed which right now are in the 5th fleet or the middle east as well as the pacific theater and then finally, you know, where is the mission sets that they bring most needed. you know, historically we are
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operating under six-month deployments. i think the navy is now of the understanding that most of our deployments are leaning more towards seven months and when we're absolutely required, we'll stay longer if we need to. the nimitz class, they're designed to last for 50 years and enterprise is the first of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that has achieved that phenomenal milestone. so as we look at how we husband our resources, it's important that we get all of our carriers to that 50-year milestone. so, you know, it's a balancing act. it involves risk and priorities and it's really quite that simple. >> clearly tensions with iran are running high and there's no way to talk about a carrier going into that region and not discussing that. iran has threatened our carriers from transiting the strait of hormuz. we've done it anyway and so far there haven't been any incidents. but they do have land-based missiles, swarming boat attacks. is there anything different you're doing this time around and capabilities you're
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bringing to bear to handle this sort of a delicate situation? >> i wouldn't want to get into exact capabilities we have versus their capabilities. i will tell you we honor very much what they say. we also sail the seas within our freedom of navigation rights as we always have. so as you've seen here in the lincoln carrier strike group as well as ourselves when we get there, when required, we will transit through the strait of hormuz, the iranians have become accustomed to seeing that. they come out and see us, we see them. thus far it's been very professional mariners respecting each other's water space. so i don't anticipate that to change here in the near future. but make no mistake about it, we are aware of the threat and we honor it. >> there's considerable debate in washington about the utility of aircraft carriers. this is a long-running debate. but particularly given that nations are developed so-called anti-access capability the to push our forces farther away from the shores, for example,
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precision missiles, there's a worry. there's a worry that we don't have enough missiles, the u.s. navy doesn't have enough missiles to protect its carriers and that the carrier lacks the long-range aviation to pack a punch. how do you respond to those critics? >> i'll be careful not to step into a policy lean that's even outside of my opinion to state. however, i've been doing this for 30 years. i've been on aircraft carriers ranging from uss midway to theodore roosevelt to carl vinson to this great historical warship. i certainly have a perspective of spending. this is my 11th deployment that i'm going on. i think this debate will continue to happen. listen, as an aviator, i get how the defense is. it is to build and operate an aircraft carrier, but i will tell you that as i look at enterprise from where it is right now, 50 years of service to this nation, look at what its capabilities were when we sent it out in 1962 to support the cuban missile crisis when it fought so bravely in vietnam, the cold war and what
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the capabilities and how we grew from an f-4 fighter mindset to an f-14 long-range defense capability to now where we're operating f-18 super hornets off the deck now. the point is this aircraft carrier like all of our aircraft carriers can change in capability and be modernized. that's what you get with the size, the flexibility, the speed of what you get with a cdsc. so from my perspective, the aircraft carrier is still not -- still not only brings together its power and flexibility and speed, but its relevance. it's still relevant in today's world. so i see the future for aircraft carry i wouldn't says as being very, very -- carrier as being very, very bright. >> let me take you to one last point. i understand the record for all- anymore, are you going to get the last few in and manage to break the record on this deployment? >> with our operations, i do
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have the privilege of getting in the airplane with some of our young junior pilots on occasion, and, yes, that number is approaching very quickly and if that happens, i'll be honored. and, you know, i'll tell ya up front, yes, i wear the patches of all the carriers i've landed on, but, really, it's a statement to the legacy of all those men and women that have supported me. i mean, you can look on that flight deck right now, you can look at the pilot and the airplane, the naval flight officer in the back seat of some of those f-18s and prowlers, they just get to drive the airplane. it's the hundreds of people that are involved on this ship that put those jets in ththe ai and i never forget that every time. >> there's absolutely no pressure when the admirable is in the back seat? >> none. >> sir, thanks very much. >> thank you very much. up next our interview with the captain of usa enterprise. stay tuned, you're watching "this week in defense news" from big e under way in the
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the first time captain bill hamilton deployed aboard enterprise, it was as a young fighter pilots in the mid- 1980s. his fourth assignment, he was commanding officer of one of the world's most famous and capable warships. asked him about the unique joys and challenges of commanding such an aging ship. >> the joys are, especially at this point, at the 50th year in the life of this ship is understanding the history of the ship. you know, the first commanding officer is is 95 years old now. the third is 90. and so that kind of puts into
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perspective how long this ship has been around. the ship has been here for more than half of the history of naval aviation. so understanding, you know, that the plank owners back in the very early '60s kind of p:'idwxx á carrier that was also the largest ship in the world, and that 50 years, you know, culminates with this deployment. and so that's a joy to understand where this ship has been both technologically and diversity. >> what about some of the challenges? >> the challenges, of course, are that there's no parts store, you know, enterprise parts r us doesn't exist. and so when things break, and they do on anything this old, oftentimes it has to be built from scratch, and oftentimes we do it ourselves right here in
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our own machine shop. >> you returned from deployment in july. most people regard this as a very fast turn around, about eight months to get back to out to sea again for another lengthy deployment. how do you pack that much work in such a short cycle to get ready? >> the truth is we didn't pack that much work in such a short cycle because we have a lot of returning lettermen, if you will that made the last deployment. that's what made this short turnaround possible. however, we still did the main training exercise, the composite training unit composite training unit exercise and the 1z÷fñmkçj'%'
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sort of make the best of the existing situation? >> i mean, predictably there's sop trendation with the sail -- trepidation over the sailors being gone that long. we've structured our lives to the six months, and when it gets longer than that, you know, especially going out, but mwr, we do activitys, we'll bring in major stars, last time it was toby keith. and so we try to maintain activities here on the ship and, of course, as many ports as we can get into to kind of take some of the sting off of that long. >> secretary maybeus introduced a whole series of initiatives recently and one was breathalyzer tests or proposed breathalyzer-type tests for sailors returning from liberty. is alcoholism is big problem, and how is this going to be implemented at this point?
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>> alcohol-related incidents are always a problem. we're seeing improvement in that area, but, really, i think the breathalyzers being talked about by the secretary are not really for disciplinary reasons, they are fitness for duty. and so it's making sure that a sailor coming off really coming to work is fit to do duty that day and it's not really a punitive measure. >> but it's not really a problem as far as you're concerned? >> no, sir. >> let me take you to some of the reminiscent. you've been aboard this ship four times and seen an enormous amount of change over that period. what was it like to fly off of her and what's it like to command her? >> well, flying off the enterprise is -- it's a little different than the other carriers. the configuration of the ship and the configuration of the island, the big square box island makes for an air flow after the ship that make it is a little more challenging to bring aircraft aboard.
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as far as changes to the ship, you know, it really kind of looks the same as when i started flying off of it. but, of course, if you go to one of the newer aircraft carriers, a lot of the systems are almost unrecognizable. so flying off of it was great. commanding it even better. you really get -- in fact, i think you've interviewed some folks, you know, and you see the diversity and you see how many professionals you'll have around on this. it's sort of a parallel processing environment, you know, everybody thinks i'm the captain and i make this whole thing run. no. i'm the captain and i got a lot of really good folks here that make this ship run, and so that's kind of the joy of it all being the commander. >> you really do, sir, and they've taken great care of us. thank you very, very much. >> thank you. she may be old, but she's in better shape than you think. more from uss enterprise in just a moment. you're watching "this week in
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defense news."
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the woat boat may be the old -- uss enterprise may be the oldest ship in the fleet, but the navy spent $600 getting ready for the final two deployments. still, she's got aging pipes, electrical systems and other components but has lasted thanks to meticulous maintenance, robust equipment and old-school materials like bronze, copper and brass. larry leagree is on his third tour. i asked him about the condition of the ship. >> as chief engineer, i'm not worried about sailing this ship anywhere around the world. for years we've had great maintenance practice and great maintenance support on the enterprise and we are still in very good material condition. >> and you also did the $600 million plus availability that allowed you to do these two
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deployments which was a whole series of work done to the ship. >> that was slightly prior to my time. but i'm an enterprise guy, i've served on the ship three times. i'm familiar with the amount of resources that we have to spend to keep this national treasure floating and doing commission. >> but it is an end-of-life ship and at the end of the day you're going to have to start making calls about what to keep repairing and what not to keep repairing. what are some of the things you think you're going to be trading off or maybe not repairing as urgent, especially as you get towards the end of the deployment? >> we like to say we're not giving up the ship. i understand the fiscal realities of the end of this ship's lifetime coming up. but our going, we will operate this ship able to meet all of its missions way up until the end. i have had no issues with the folks who resource repairs on this ship, with any of those types of decisions. and a lot of that is really a function of we have tremendous self-help and self-repair capability here, probably unique to any other ship in the fleet. so a lot of those decisions,
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i'm not having to think about can we get someone out here to come and help fix this, is this part available because enterprise sailors, we start making the new part before we even think to ask for help. we start tearing the pump apart or the ventlation system or the fan add we do it and we could it here before we -- and we do it here before we ask for outside help. >> to old navy parts no longer in manufacturing. >> we're very unique. we're unique and special. >> speaking of how unique and special you are, one of the most unique operations of the ship is the eight nuclear reactors that maintains four props. what is the challenge of going forward having a more complicated ship? >> there's a complexity associated with it because the technology at the time when this great ship was designed and built didn't allow for the larger reactors we've had on the newer vessels. there's a an amount of complexity that goes along with
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t. we have flexibility in operations that no other ship has and that provides redun dancy and reliability itself right there. >> to kill a rumor right now, all eight of the plants are running. >> running like champs. >> there's some rumors that it reengined with two or only has four reerks that run, the -- reactors that run. >> it runs well. >> you know this ship inside and out because of all the time you've spent. what are the things that are really, really cool and what are the things that make you want to tear your hair out? >> i think one of the coolest things i will limit it to and talk a little more is our repair capability. as chief engineer, i'm always in touch with repairs on the ship and my 9-year-old it was asking me the other day, i'm on the phone, daddy, when i go out to sea who fixes you. she hears the phone calls i take. i said we fix ourselves. so if you go down to the machinery repair shop, we have a 1961 layus down there that still operates and we use everyday. the call i made right before this interview, we finished the
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cumming on an air conditioning -- cupeling on an air conditioning machine. this is one of our emergency diesel generators. this thing has been in operation for 50 years, so all the original components are there and it runs better than the newer decemberles inside the navy. >> how long could the ship run if the navy needed it to run longer? >> that's really a function of nuclear fuel management, but from the haul and material aspects of the ship, i've seen much newer ships that don't have as much run time left so years >> this ship has been very, very special to you. why has it been so special to you? >> well, a couple of reasons one of which is she is a demanding ship. she takes a lot out of you. i've served here three times. i had one of -- i had one of my decision officers toured here in the plant. i was the major propulsion assistant here and now back as the chief engineer. so from a navy job perspective, she's been challenging and fun to work with many times.
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from a personal perspective, i had a chance for the enterprise working her primary mission which is on the strike operations, intervened with me. i was the reconstruction team in afghanistan and i had a team of folks up on the side of a mountain and we had had -- we just passed over an ied attack. we had been in contact all day, so heavy combat, and we just had a sighting that some guys were getting ready to attack us and try to detonate an ied on us that we were about to go over. so i was able to call in airstrikes and we got support that day. they took care of the enemy problem. what i didn't know at the time is that was the day when the enterprise was covering down on : gulf of ahman several hundred miles away. so it was aircraft from this ship that got me and my team out of trouble. so she's very special to me.
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>> thanks very much, sir. >> my pleasure. coming up in my notebook, the reason the navy should keep the enterprise alive.
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when the uss enterprise was commissioned five decades ago she was a technological marvel that pioneered aircraft carriers. she was so amazing see insiered a science fiction namesake in "star trek" enterprise. whether in the cuban missile crisis, six war cruises to vietnam, throughout the cold war, the balks, afghanistan, war, the balks, afghanistan, and the iraq war, xcbw
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captured loop went lake champlaign before the navy was born. to today's multimission fa-18 super hornets. but it is the people that have manned this novel ship that have brought her to life, day after day, year after year, decade after decade. sadly, the navy will retire this enterprise late this year after she returns from deployment for the last time. we hope the navy will continue more than 200 years of tradition and keep an enterprise in the fleet by gracing another carrier with this legendary name. thanks for joining us for "this week in defense news." i'm vago muradian. you can watch this show online at or you can e-mail me at before we go, a very special thanks to fleet forces command and everyone aboard the uss enterprise for their generous hospitality. we wish them luck on their final deployment. i'll rejoin you in washington next
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